Salsa Verde

in situ

This sauce is something I mentioned in passing ages ago, but I assume nobody took much notice of it then.  And honestly, I almost forgot about it myself.

Flipping through my omnibus notebook now and then, I’d notice the quickly scribbled recipe – a vague list of ingredients, really – and remember how good it was.  I’d then remind myself that I should really collect the recipe gems out of that notebook at some point (which I will probably never do).  And then I’d proceed to go about my day, tra la la, recipes forgotten and languishing.

sauté some red cabbage with red onion and salsa verde

But in the span of the last week or so, I somehow managed to accumulate an embarrassment of herbs: basil, chives, dill, thyme, mint, and four (four!) bunches of parsley.  Clearly, some sort of fridge-cleaning pesto was in order.  And lucky me, I had just seen that salsa verde “recipe” again.

sear some gulf shrimp
after peeling: ghost shrimp

Originally inspired by the brilliance that is Ideas In Food, it’s an Italian-style salsa verde, parsley-forward, thickened with bread and spiked with vinegar, and not a lick of olive oil.  The result is a bright, punchy sauce that goes fantastically with eggs, grains, vegetables, and just about everything else I’ve slathered it on.

mix them together

I suppose you could throw in some olive oil if you really had your heart set on it, but the beauty of this sauce is its crisp freshness.  Oil, I think, would weigh it down, deaden the clean flavors.  Fat carries flavor, yes; but sometimes flavor is already there in abundance and needs no outside help.

add one of these

This is one of those play-it-by-ear recipes. This may terrify you, or excite you. I am in the latter camp. Measurements are all approximate, based on what I used, which was based on what was kicking around in my fridge.  Use whatever you have, or whatever you like.  It’s your sauce.

salsa verde on top before serving

Salsa Verde

Inspired by Ideas In Food

For the fresh herbs, I used: 1 large bunch parsley (picked from the stems, please), 1/3 cup mint, 10-15 chives, 2 tablespoons basil, 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, and 1 tablespoon dill. And I deeply regretted that I didn't have any cilantro. I understand salsa verde is traditionally made with mostly parsley, but let's not stand on ceremony.

Me, I like this sauce with a pretty decent heat level, provided here by half a marzano chile. Remember, every chile is different, and you can't remove it once too much has been added in. Start with a little, and add more as you like.

If you don't have panko, use slices of whatever bread tastes good (crusts removed). I always have panko, and would rather use my bread to accompany dinner instead of using it as an ingredient.


  • 1/3 cup panko, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • About 3 cups mixed fresh herbs, loosely packed
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Fresh chile to taste, chopped
  • 1-3 anchovy fillets, to taste
  • About 1/4 cup water, or as needed
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste


1. Mix 1/3 cup panko with the apple cider and sherry vinegars. Stir in enough water (2-4 tablespoons) to make a slightly-thick paste. Set aside.

2. In a small food processor (or mortar and pestle), purée the herbs with the scallions, garlic, chile, and anchovy. Scrape down the sides of the processor workbowl.

3. Add about half of the vinegar-panko goo, and 2 tablespoons of water. Purée again briefly, and check the consistency. If you'd like it thinner, add more water. If you'd like it thicker, add more panko (vinegared, or plain). Season with a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper.

4. Give it another whizz, then taste. The vinegar flavor should be very present, but not overwhelming. Correct the seasoning as needed with more vinegar-panko goo, chile, salt, and/or pepper. Thin as needed with more water, or thicken with more panko. Add some more herbs if you need to. It'll taste okay at this point, but you should really let it stand at least 1 hour at room temperature before using. Store in the refrigerator with a little olive oil drizzled on top to help keep the color fresh and green (or use it all up in a few days, like I do).